How to Get Your Prayers Answered
June 20, 2024 Blogs by: Tim Jennings, M.D.

The secret to getting prayers answered is to meet the conditions set out by God.

If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit (John 15:7, 8 NKJV).

When we abide in Jesus, our hearts are surrendered to Him; our minds hunger for truth and actively assimilate His Word into our hearts; our attitudes, desires, motives, and longings are changed from selfishness to love; and we desire to glorify God. Then, with hearts that live to give glory to God, to uplift Jesus, to advance His kingdom, our prayers are gladly received and God answers them with the wisdom of His infinite foreknowing self. His answers will meet our true need and His greater purposes, and we, who live in abiding trust, rejoice in the varied ways and timing of God’s response.

But there are many prayers that God does not pay attention to—prayers that God does not “listen” to or answer.

The selfish prayer: God does not answer the selfish prayer because such prayer, no matter how religiously it may be phrased, means: “Give me what I want so I can continue to rebel against you, injure my soul, waste resources, and harm others.”

The pretender prayer: A prayer from a person who doesn’t actually believe in God but prays to manipulate others who do believe. “He who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6 NKJV).

The proud prayer: A prayer people make to be seen; to advance themselves as more righteous, more holy, better than others; to be recognized as a religious leader and gain power over others; or to put others down. It was the prayer of the Pharisee recorded in Luke: “God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess” (18:11, 12 NKJV).

The rejector-of-truth prayer: A prayer said by those who may even be praying for the right thing but do so while they knowingly deny truth and choose what they know is wrong. This would be a person who prays for better lung function while continuing to smoke, or a person who prays for a happy and healthy marriage while they commit adultery.

The whiny, complaining, negative prayer: The kind of prayer made with no interest in resolution, no desire to work things out, no desire to mature themselves, to heal, to change the destructive feelings, no openness to hear God speak, but simply to lodge a complaint and justify their role as victim and how life is not fair to them.

The proforma prayer: The prayer done by rote, by ritual, by form without any thought or active engagement of the heart in pursuit of a connection with God. Man looks on the outward appearance (other humans can observe the act of performing a prayer), but God looks upon the heart and knows when the person is not praying but merely reciting a ritual.

The Heard Prayer

While there are many prayers that God does not pay attention to, God smiles upon and longs to hear prayers from honest hearts, from people who believe in Him and genuinely desire to connect with Him, to know His will, hear His voice, abide in His presence, be transformed by His love, be strengthened by His power to carry out His will, those who have surrendered self and long to give glory to Him by growing daily in truth, to become mature Christians who manifest His character, and have the ability to live the principles of God, to apply the methods of God in how they govern themselves and treat others.

God will answer all such prayers!

I encourage you to pray—daily and often—but make prayer a conversation with God; talk to Him like you would talk with a friend, which means you must know Him, have faith in Him, and come to understand Him. And make your most intimate prayers private, seeking solitary places to commune with heaven, places without distractions, where you can abide in the quiet and hear the still small voice of God responding (1 Kings 19:12). When you know Him, you will understand His methods, His design laws, and will be more sensitive to His answers, for just as you would with a true friend, you will realize that He will not give certain responses because they are out of character for Him.

And when you encounter moments that seem to be silence, remember that God is your friend and ask yourself what would you do or think if your human friend responded with silence. Wouldn’t you reflect and think, “What did I just ask? Do I already know the truth, the right course, the best action, but want something different and my friend is giving me time to reconsider?” Then when silence seems to be God’s response, apply that wisdom and ask: “Is this a problem that I already know the answer to, that God has previously led me to solve? Do I need to solve this one on my own because God has given me the wisdom, principles, and methods already and now I need to apply them so I can mature and grow rather than seeking Him to tell me every answer?” If so, then ask God for the confirmation to proceed and apply His methods to the situation, actively remembering the vital truths applicable to your situation, thinking through your choices, and keeping your heart open to His leading while you move forward with a thankful heart, also remembering that Jesus has promised never to leave us or forsake us and that we can receive His power as long as our hearts are actively seeking to glorify Him.

Finally, if you are praying for strength to do God’s will, you must remember that we do not receive the strength for the task until we choose to apply the truth and engage in the mission. The smoker doesn’t get the strength to quit until they choose to quit; the runner doesn’t get the endurance to finish the race until they are running the race; the waters do not part until our feet get wet. (See Joshua 3:13.)

The next time you pray, remember Jesus’ promise:

And I will do whatever you ask—that is in harmony with my character, methods, and principles—so that the Son may bring honor and glory to the Father by revealing the healing and life-giving power of his methods. You may ask me for anything in harmony with my character and methods, and I will do it (John 14:13, 14 REM).

 

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Tim Jennings, M.D. Timothy R. Jennings, M.D., is a board-certified psychiatrist, master psychopharmacologist, Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, Fellow of the Southern Psychiatric Association, and an international speaker. He served as president of the Southern and Tennessee Psychiatric Associations and is president and founder of Come and Reason Ministries. Dr. Jennings has authored many books, including The God-Shaped Brain, The God-Shaped Heart, and The Aging Brain.